Nov. 10, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The final date for the public to provide feedback on a proposed new ferry terminal at Hunter Point South Park is fast approaching and Queens Council Member Julie Won has called on the city to extend the deadline.
All public comments regarding the proposal – which would see the current landing demolished and a new larger dock built in front of the main boardwalk by the Oval — must be submitted before Nov. 18.
Won says that residents have not been given adequate time to review the project. News of the story only came to light last week.
The EDC, which oversees the city’s ferry routes, filed permits on Oct. 18 for the construction of a large floating barge about 100 feet out from the boardwalk. Two boats would be able to dock at the barge with the EDC looking to begin construction in the fall of 2023.
However, Won penned a letter Monday to the EDC and requested the organization push the public comments deadline back until after it presents its plans to Community Board 2 — and the public gets to learn more about it. The presentation to CB2 is scheduled to take place over the winter, according to the EDC.
“The community feedback deadline…is not acceptable considering the Community Board at large has not had a public hearing nor have local schools, nonprofits, or civic organizations been engaged in the feedback process,” Won wrote.
Won said that many residents have contacted her office since last week voicing their concerns about the project.
Critics argue that the new structure – which would be much bigger than the current ferry landing located in front of the beach volleyball court — would spoil the view of the Manhattan skyline and fill the boardwalk with hundreds of passengers.
The EDC says the current landing is reaching the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced with a bigger structure in front of the boardwalk to meet the demand of increased passenger numbers. It says a new, larger ferry terminal cannot be constructed where the current terminal is located given there are road and rail tunnels running directly under the site.
Won said that residents are also alarmed that the plans are at an advanced stage and the window for the public to weigh in is about to close.
“The community is upset they were not adequately informed in a timely manner nor engaged appropriately of the upcoming public comment period,” wrote Won, who represents the 26th Council District which covers Long Island City.
“Community input is of the utmost importance for any project proposals that are intended for our district, especially regarding public infrastructure. We cannot support any proposals that lack adequate community outreach and engagement.”
The EDC told the Queens Post that it welcomed community advocacy to extend the deadline.
However, the timeline for community feedback is overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and not the EDC, according to Jeff Holmes, a spokesperson for the EDC.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also responsible for approving or rejecting the permit. The Queens Post reached out to the agency for comment on a deadline extension but did not receive a response before publication.
The EDC, Holmes said, briefed Won’s office and Community Board 2’s transportation committee about the plans in June. He said the project to replace the current terminal was first proposed in 2019 when NYC Ferry, the city’s ferry service, announced it was expanding its city-wide operations. Former Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer was also told about the project when he was in office, the EDC said.
Won’s office said that while it was made aware of the plans in June, the EDC never provided a rough timeline for the project. The EDC also did not give “specific deadlines or opportunities for feedback,” said Jenna Laing, Won’s communications director.
“We were informed about the deadline for public comment in late October,” Laing said. “Once the community heard about the deadline, they felt there was not enough time for community engagement and requested more time for public comment.”
The EDC is looking to expand its operations at the location and the new terminal would be able to accommodate two vessels simultaneously – as opposed to the current structure that can only take one.
The new terminal would be able to accommodate vessels carrying up to 350 passengers whereas the current ferry dock can only cater to ferries with 150 passengers, the EDC said.
Meanwhile, Holmes said that the EDC briefed Won’s team about the project again Thursday as part of its outreach.
The EDC said it also met last week with the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, a volunteer group that helps with the upkeep of the waterfront parks to discuss the plans. The HPPC opposes the new ferry landing saying it would be detrimental to the park as it would block the views of the skyline and the East River from the boardwalk – a major feature that draws many visitors to the park.
“We look forward to continue engaging with and providing regular updates to the Councilmember and other elected officials, the Community Board, and all other local community groups and stakeholders on this critical project,” Holmes said.
All public comments regarding the permit application must be prepared in writing and emailed to [email protected]